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March 29, 2019 - 5:32pm

Woman who destroyed ex-boyfriend's Harley in fire put on probation, fined and given community service

posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, pembroke, news, notify.
saelijacquelinemugf2018.jpg
     Jacqueline Saeli

The ex-boyfriend of a Pembroke woman who destroyed his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a garage fire Jan. 6, 2018, let Judge Charles Zambito know today that he wasn't happy the 53-year-old woman is able to avoid jail time as part of her plea agreement.

"What kind of lesson will she learn with no prison time or no jail time?" asked Ben Reuben. "Local jail time would be an education for stopping her from doing something like this again."

Zambito told Jacqueline Saeli that both the probation department and Sheriff's Office investigators recommended jail time for her, but in order to send her to jail, he would have to allow her to withdraw her guilty plea and take the case to trial.

He said he wasn't inclined to send her to jail because she has paid $10,000 in restitution. She has a 30-year career caring for other people as a nurse and no prior criminal record. Saeli has successfully completed alcohol abuse treatment on her own.

All of those factors figured into his decision, Zambito said.

Saeli's attorney requested three years probation but Reuben and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman both said they thought five years probation was more appropriate. Zambito agreed that the case called for at least five years probation.

"This case isn't just about you and the victim," Zambito said. "This crime put at risk an entire neighborhood. You set a shed on fire out of anger at your boyfriend. That required volunteer firefighters and the police to show up and deal with a substantial fire. These firefighters are people who are there to serve you and your community and you put them all at risk. What if a volunteer had had a heart attack? How would you have felt if somebody had died because of what you did?"

Though Zambito couldn't send Saeli to jail, he did order to serve 200 hours of community service over the next 18 months and fined her $1,000.

Before being sentenced, Saeli had told Zambito that she was raised by her grandmother who instilled in her a sense of integrity, honesty and accountability, and that "you always do your best to help others."

She said the Jan. 6 incident was prompted by what she thought was a betrayal by two people she trusted. She said she was hurt and distraught and she admitted to drinking that night.

"I can't take back what I've done," Saeli said. "I've lived with regret and shame every day since. I can't believe I did this to somebody I loved. I wish I could take this back but I can't."

Saeli and Reuben didn't look at each other as she left the courtroom.

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